Beware the Big-Number Boogeyman

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Colorado’s total state budget is $29 billion. That’s right; billion with a “B.” That’s a big number. It’s bigger this year than it was two years ago.

All too often, Colorado’s most extreme conservatives use these oversimplified statements as if they are some kind of thunderclap in the raging debate over our state’s finances. It’s a particular line of attack I call the “Big-Number Boogeyman” argument.

The Big-Number Boogeyman’s tactic is cynical, yet effective. He throws around big numbers most of us can’t relate to and points out how the budget keeps growing. He is quick to dismiss those advocating for more public investment as hopelessly greedy liberals who can’t prioritize.

Last week, the Colorado Springs Gazette took a page out of the Big-Number Boogeyman’s handbook.

In an editorial, it erroneously depicted a shrinking K-12 budget as a direct consequence of the state’s decision to expand Medicaid coverage for those with incomes at 133 percent of the federal poverty line ($16,000/year).

To make its argument, the Gazette relied on the wrong facts. Instead of looking at the $11 billion general fund, it used Colorado’s $29 billion total state budget (all funds).

(If you’re starting to think like the Boogeyman and his followers, you’re probably saying to yourself, “Wow, $11 billion is a big number.” Before I lose you, divide that $11 billion by our population. It accounts to a mere $2,000 for every man, woman, and child.)

Remove the Big-Number Boogeyman bias and here’s what’s left: It may seem like Medicaid’s share of the budget is exploding, but that’s because Medicaid expansion is funded by a federal government match. When you look at the general fund — the true measure of where our tax dollars are going — you see percentages for Medicaid have remained virtually unchanged over the last five years.

Based on its incorrect theory, the Gazette then declared a solution to the problem (one it created by using out-of-context numbers): If we want higher paid teachers, kick people off Medicaid. Fiscal crisis solved!

The Big-Number Boogeyman and his henchmen went wild.

“$29 billion and we can’t find money for roads and schools?”
“We just need to prioritize better!”
“The budget grows bigger every year. How much more do you want?”

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Get More Smarter on Wednesday (August 9)

Members of Congress are holding fewer town hall meetings in August than they have in recent years — try to contain your surprise. It’s time to Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► The war of words between the United States and North Korea reached a new level on Tuesday after President Trump promised to unleash “fire and fury” on the reclusive country if it continues to threaten the U.S. with nuclear weapons. Trump’s strong rhetoric is raising concerns in Asia, and as the New York Times reports, Trump’s bombastic (pun intended) statements caught his own staff off guard:

President Trump delivered his “fire and fury” threat to North Korea on Tuesday with arms folded, jaw set and eyes flitting on what appeared to be a single page of talking points set before him on the conference table at his New Jersey golf resort.

The piece of paper, as it turned out, was a fact sheet on the opioid crisis he had come to talk about, and his ominous warning to Pyongyang was entirely improvised, according to several people with direct knowledge of what unfolded. In discussions with advisers beforehand, he had not run the specific language by them. [Pols emphasis]

The inflammatory words quickly escalated the confrontation with North Korea to a new, alarming level and were followed shortly by a new threat from North Korea to obliterate an American air base on Guam. In the hours since, the president’s advisers have sought to calm the situation, with Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson assuring Americans that they “should sleep at night” without worrying about an imminent war.

Yes, you read that correctly. President Trump improvised threatening North Korea. If we end up in a military conflict with North Korea, maybe Trump can go do the fighting himself, too.

Hopefully, North Korea is listening more closely to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

 

Luis Toro of Colorado Ethics Watch calls for more transparency in campaign fundraising in light of a Denver Post story that Treasurer Walker Stapleton is using a big loophole in the law to raise unlimited amounts of money for his upcoming campaign for governor. The editorial board of the Denver Post is also not thrilled with Stapleton’s loophole maneuvering:

While his move can be viewed as an understandable and inevitable outgrowth of the reality of how tangled campaign finance laws corrupt our politics, we wish the treasurer had set a better example and not led us down this path — for others surely will follow.

As The Denver Post’s Mark K. Matthews reported, the Republican plans to appear at a high-dollar fundraiser on Aug. 21 on behalf of BetterColoradoNow, an independent expenditure committee that seeks to cause trouble for Democratic candidates. Stapleton is doing so even though he hasn’t made his candidacy official. His coyness allows him to avoid rules that prohibit cooperation between such committees and candidates.

We argue that Stapleton’s planned workaround violates the spirit of the law and the clear expectation of Colorado voters, who have consistently sought to set strict limits on political fundraising. Such dodges add to the reasons voters feel down in their bones that the system is falling apart.

 

► Big news from the Washington Post regarding Robert Mueller’s investigation into potential ties between Russia and the Trump campaign:

FBI agents raided the Alexandria home of President Trump’s former campaign chairman late last month, using a search warrant to seize documents and other materials, according to people familiar with the special counsel investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

Federal agents appeared at Paul Manafort’s home without advance warning in the predawn hours of July 26, the day after he met voluntarily with the staff for the Senate Intelligence Committee.

The search warrant was wide-ranging and FBI agents working with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III departed the home with various records. Jason Maloni, a spokesman for Manafort, confirmed that agents executed a warrant at one of the political consultant’s homes and that Manafort cooperated with the search.

As “The Fix” concludes, there are few phrases scarier than “predawn raid” when it comes to the topic of a federal investigation.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Get More Smarter on Tuesday (August 8)

Worried that people don’t like you? Your approval ratings can’t be worse than those of Cory Gardner. It’s time to Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► President Trump is a model of consistency when it comes to low approval ratings. As CNN explains:

Six months into his presidency, Donald Trump’s overall approval rating stands at its lowest point in CNN polling, while three-quarters of Americans say they can’t trust most of what they hear from the White House.

Overall, 38% say they approve of Trump’s handling of the presidency, according to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS, with 56% saying they disapprove. Just one other newly-elected president has held an approval rating below 50% at this point in his presidency since modern polling began: Bill Clinton, whose approval rating stood at 44% at this point in 1993.

Enthusiasm breaks against Trump by a 2-to-1 margin. Nearly half in the new poll say they strongly disapprove of Trump’s handling of the job (47%), while just a quarter say they feel strongly positive about Trump’s performance (24%).

Trump has been President for 200 days already? Covfefe!

 

► Here in Colorado, new poll results show that Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) remains less popular than President Trump. Gardner’s approval/disapproval split is 24/56, compared to 40/53 for Trump.

Back in March, Gardner’s approval ratings were at a miserable 39%. At the rate he’s going, Gardner’s approval ratings will be in the single digits by Christmas.

 

► An in-depth Climate Change study compiled by a slew of federal agencies tells a story that President Trump may not want to hear. From the New York Times:

The average temperature in the United States has risen rapidly and drastically since 1980, and recent decades have been the warmest of the past 1,500 years, according to a sweeping federal climate change report awaiting approval by the Trump administration.

The draft report by scientists from 13 federal agencies, which has not yet been made public, concludes that Americans are feeling the effects of climate change right now. It directly contradicts claims by President Trump and members of his cabinet who say that the human contribution to climate change is uncertain, and that the ability to predict the effects is limited…

…The report was completed this year and is a special science section of the National Climate Assessment, which is congressionally mandated every four years. The National Academy of Sciences has signed off on the draft report, and the authors are awaiting permission from the Trump administration to release it.

One government scientist who worked on the report, Katharine Hayhoe, a professor of political science at Texas Tech University, called the conclusions among “the most comprehensive climate science reports” to be published. Another scientist involved in the process, who spoke to The New York Times on the condition of anonymity, said he and others were concerned that it would be suppressed.

Each one of 13 federal agencies — including the EPA — is supposed to “approve” the report for distribution by August 18. Scientists are worried that the Trump administration will dismiss this report entirely.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Gardner Talks Plenty, Answers Little in Telephone Townhall

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Why won’t Cory Gardner do in -person, live town halls? That’s easy –  if he did, he would have baffled crowds of people yelling, “What?” “Who?” “When?” and turning to each other, muttering, “What – what did he just say? It sounded great, but what does it mean?” He couldn’t handle the follow-up questions. At all. There are no “mute” or “delete” buttons for real people asking inconvenient questions in a live town hall.

I listened to Senator Gardner talk at his constituents for an hour during his tele-town hall on August 2, 2017. For the first time in all of the Gardner town halls I’ve sat through, he actually answered one of my questions.  (at 49:15 in the recording). Unfortunately, it was a question with lots of wiggle room – perfect for Gardner. On the other hand, plenty of people asked him very specific questions, and he didn’t answer those, either.

Here’s what I heard between 7:05 pm and 8:05 pm on Gardner’s telephone town hall. All questions and answers are paraphrased, unless I’m using quotation marks.

Photo: ADAPT protest, Cory Gardner’s Greeley office, July 27, 2017.

In his introduction, Gardner spewed the usual glibberish. He’s going to repair the damage of Obamacare, because so many Coloradans got their policies cancelled or had to pay fines, bla bla. He lied again about how many town halls he’s held, counting his one on one meetings with a health care CEO and stopping to get fruit for his kids at a roadside stand as “meeting with Coloradans”. Oh, and he had dinner at a ranch, and met with  Chamber of Commerce members.  Aren’t those town halls? Cory swears that counts as a town hall.

Still glibbering, Gardner talked about cybersecurity and his bill to make the “internet of things” more secure, which cook rightly pointed out is not-bad legislation.  He also talked about opening up more broadband “spectrum” in rural Colorado, and mentioned tax reform, coming to you in September!!

Then he began taking questions. Some had been submitted online, while most were live telephone callers.

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Clueless Climate Alliance Clamor Continues

We wrote earlier this week about Republican gubernatorial candidates who reacted with over-the-top anger to Gov. John Hickenlooper’s decision to join the U.S. Climate Alliance–a group of states committed to meeting the goals of the Paris Climate Accords despite President Donald Trump’s unilateral pullout of the United States.

Since then, Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg has joined the pile-on in his own colloquial way:

We don’t know who Mark Train is, but we assume he doesn’t drive an electric car! Bah-dum-tish!

Ribbing aside, this is another chance to remind readers that we’ve never understood the intensity of the clamor against renewable energy from groups like the Independence Institute and their Republican message surrogates. The scientific consensus regarding human-caused climate change is really only challenged by a small subset of non-mainstream voices, who are almost always are revealed under scrutiny to be funded by interests with a financial motive to deny the overwhelming consensus.

This description sums up the Independence Institute pretty well.

What we’re trying to say here is that the only people who rage against renewable energy this much are paid to–or in the case of politicians like Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, supported politically by those who are. If you don’t have a financial interest in the fight against clean energy, there’s just no reason to badmouth it. Not even as price-sensitive consumers, since the cost of power from renewable sources has been dropping, steadily eroding that once-decisive factor. Consumers understand the benefit of using clean energy over fossil fuels, and are excited about new technologies to make them practical.

In all cases, whether it’s the GOP’s candidates for governor or the fossil fuel industry’s paid surrogates, these are extremely weak arguments, that the next generation will find laughable as they routinely set out for the West Coast in their electric cars and power their homes with renewable generation. Unless you’re already primed for these anti-renewable energy arguments by immersion in the Fox News/talk radio infobubble, in which case you’re the choir the Independence Institute is wasting time preaching to, it simply doesn’t work. It sounds stale, strained, and above all contrived.

Like the real Mark Twain once said, “do not tell fish stories where the people know you; but particularly, don’t tell them where they know the fish.”

Before Annual ALEC Conference, New Report Exposes Secretive Group’s Political Influence in Colorado

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Just days before the American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) annual meeting in Denver, Colorado Common Cause and the Common Cause Education Fund released a new report uncovering the recent influence of the secretive special interest lobbying group in the Colorado legislature. ALEC is a national secretive lobbying group that is holding its annual meeting in Denver from July 19th-21st. ALEC is known for bringing state lawmakers and corporate lobbyists together in secret to draft and approve “model” bills on different issues, often benefiting its corporate donors’ bottom line.

The report reveals the members of the Colorado legislature that have ties to ALEC and which recent Colorado state bills can be traced back to the organization. Additionally, the report highlights ALEC’s corporate members and uncovers money given to the organization from both the Coors family and Koch brothers. The report also documents how ALEC abuses its public charity status with the IRS, effectively making its corporate donors eligible for a tax deduction for its funding of ALEC.

“ALEC’s secretive corporate lobbying flies in the face of how democracy is supposed to work,” said Elena Nunez, executive director of Colorado Common Cause. “Voters may not know who ALEC is, but they have been very influential in Colorado. Coloradans need to know who is really behind some of the bills introduced in our legislature and what ALEC’s corporate funders are getting in return.”

“This report should be eye-opening and alarming for any Coloradan who believes in transparent and accountable government,” Nunez added. “ALEC and its corporate funders can’t be allowed to peddle their influence in secret anymore, and taxpayers shouldn’t be subsidizing ALEC’s lobbying.”

The release of the new report comes a week before ALEC holds its annual meeting in Denver, where legislators and lobbyists will meet behind closed doors to plan a national strategy to push ALEC’s agenda on workers’ rights, environmental protection, healthcare, tax and budget issues, and telecommunications policy. U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Congressman Ken Buck (R-CO), and Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman are among the conference’s announced speakers.

To kick off a week of counter programming and unveil the new report, Colorado Common Cause will hold a teach-in on ALEC’s influence and agenda on July 15th at the First Baptist Church of Denver featuring expert panelists from Colorado Ethics Watch, Mi Familia Vota, FRESC, NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado, Colorado Fiscal Institute, Conservation Colorado, and more. Additional information about the event can be found here.

To view the “ALEC in Colorado” report, click here.

Get More Smarter on Monday (July 10)

Can we just declare July “Fried Chicken Month?” One day just isn’t enough. It’s time to Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Tick-tock. Tick-tock. Tick-tock…President Trump’s Russia problem is only growing larger by the day. The New York Times dropped a bombshell on the story over the weekend with news that Donald Trump, Jr. and other leaders of Trump’s campaign met with a Russian lawyer after being promised “dirt” on Democratic Presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. As a follow-up story in the New York Times explains:

President Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., was promised damaging information about Hillary Clinton before agreeing to meet with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer during the 2016 campaign, according to three advisers to the White House briefed on the meeting and two others with knowledge of it.

The meeting was also attended by the president’s campaign chairman at the time, Paul J. Manafort, as well as by the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Mr. Manafort and Mr. Kushner recently disclosed the meeting, though not its content, in confidential government documents described to The New York Times…

…The meeting — at Trump Tower on June 9, 2016, two weeks after Donald J. Trumpclinched the Republican nomination — points to the central question in federal investigations of the Kremlin’s meddling in the presidential election: whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians. The accounts of the meeting represent the first public indication that at least some in the campaign were willing to accept Russian help.

While President Trump has been dogged by revelations of undisclosed meetings between his associates and the Russians, the episode at Trump Tower is the first such confirmed private meeting involving his inner circle during the campaign — as well as the first one known to have included his eldest son.

Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) is calling for Donald Trump Jr. to speak with the Senate Intelligence Committee about the reported meeting.

 

► You can set aside the “where there’s smoke, there’s fire” analogy for the moment, because as The Atlantic reports, “If there was no collusion, it wasn’t for lack of trying.” Trump Jr. initially claimed that the point of the alleged meeting was to discuss issues of adoption under the Magnitsky Act…but that was only the initial explanation:

Trump Jr. then changed his story, claiming he’d been promised only information relevant to the campaign, by an intermediary he met at the 2013 Miss Universe pageant, owned by his father and hosted in Moscow. (The Washington Post later identified him as Rob Goldstone, a music publicist who said he was working on behalf of an unnamed Russian client.) Trump Jr. brought his brother-in-law Jared Kushner and then-Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort to the meeting. He said that attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya offered him damaging information about Hillary Clinton, but that when it became clear she did not have the goods, he ended the meeting…

…In other words, Trump Jr. admitted (while acknowledging a prior lie) that he was open to receiving damaging information about Hillary Clinton from the Russian lawyer; he was just frustrated that she didn’t seem to have it. If there was no collusion between the Kremlin and the Trump inner circle, it was not because top Trump aides were against it.

Trump Jr.’s admission here is remarkable. Donald Trump’s tendency to speak unwisely remains one of his greatest weaknesses—his threat to release apparently fictive tapes resulted in a special-counsel investigation that has rocked his still-young presidency—and his children are a chip off the old block. (Eric Trump has admitted, contra claims of separation, that he continues to talk business with his father.)

 

► Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) has always tried to present himself as a “moderate” or “centrist” Republican, but as the Denver Post writes, the Trumpcare debate has shown Gardner’s true colors — and they are all red. From Mark Matthews:

Though the bill’s final language remains in flux, there is little doubt in Colorado political circles about where Gardner will stand at the end of the day — despite Gardner not taking a public position on the first Senate version when it was released in late June.

“In the end Colorado conservatives know that Cory Gardner is going to vote to repeal Obamacare and when there is a final bill Cory Gardner is going to be there,” said Guy Short, a political consultant and longtime Colorado delegate to the Republican National Convention.

ICYMI, Gardner spoke to a small group of constituents in a phone call on Thursday. Gardner’s answers to several pointed healthcare questions were astonishingly awful.

As for healthcare legislation, Congressional Republicans are back at work this week after the July 4th recess, and there are plenty of signs that Trumpcare is in trouble on Capitol Hill. Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain said over the weekend that the healthcare legislation is “probably going to be dead.”

 

► Don’t miss the newest episode of The Get More Smarter Show, featuring an interview with state Rep. Alec Garnett (D-Denver).

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Get More Smarter on Thursday (July 6)

Today is National Fried Chicken Day; this is a pretty good Colorado-related marketing stunt. It’s time to Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► President Trump is continuing his nationalist and anti-media rhetoric in Europe this week ahead of the Group of 20 Summit of world leaders in Hamburg, Germany. The New York Times sums up Trump’s talk in Warsaw, Poland with a single paragraph:

At a news conference with President Andrzej Duda of Poland earlier in the day, Mr. Trump broke with his own intelligence agencies by saying he was not convinced that Russia was solely behind the hacking in the 2016 presidential election; he repeated a warning to North Korea after its missile test; and he once again denounced what he called “fake news.”

Poland’s first lady is taking over the Internet thanks to her handshake snub of Trump.

 

► How low can the polls go? The only thing with more downward momentum than Trumpcare is the public opinion of Republicans involved with the healthcare debacle. Here in Colorado, Sen. Cory Gardner’s (R-Yuma) approval ratings have sunk to 27%, largely because voters really don’t like the healthcare proposals championed by Congressional Republicans. Gardner’s numbers have been plummeting in recent months, which is no surprise when you consider that only 50% of Republican voters in Colorado approve of the Senate’s approach to healthcare legislation.

Of course, Gardner’s approval ratings are also going to keep falling the longer he remains hidden away from his constituents.

 

► Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams is taking a lot of heat over his decision to comply with requests from the Trump administration to turn over election-related data from Colorado. It doesn’t help Williams’ cause when you consider that 41 other states have refused the request from the Trump administration, citing a refusal to play along with Trump’s unfounded claims of massive election fraud. A good number of these denials are coming from solid red states. The Denver Post breaks down the particulars of this controversy and what it means for Colorado voters.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Good News! June 23-30, 2017

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

This diary is about small victories, local heroes, sweet stories, random kindnesses, unexpected grace, cold justice served up on a hot plate. As always, your interpretation of what is “good news” is probably different than mine.

This week, it’s all about healthcare and the resistance to the BCRA Wealthcare bill.  We’ve come too far to give up now. Keep our eyes on the prize:  A public healthcare system like every other industrialized country has.

Healthcare, the ACA, and the Senate Wealthcare bill

The Senate Democrats fought hard to keep the BCRA, aka Trump’s Wealthcare bill, from being voted on without hearings or public input. It was good to see some Senate backbone on display.

Hawaii’s Maisie Hirono led  filibustering on the Senate floor.

Our own Senator Bennet spoke at length,  outlining what’s at stake in this health care bill.

But – we don’t know what Cory Gardner really thinks about the Senate healthcare bill he supposedly helped to draft. Right now, he looks to be in the “Yes on BCRA” camp, because he pretends that insurance costs will go down with the Senate bill.  However, Cowardly Cory will not give his constituents the courtesy of in-person meetings or town halls to discuss his position. Even when said constituents try really, really hard.

To keep the heat on, keep contacting

Senator Bennet: Contact Us

Senator Gardner: Contact Cory*

More good news about healthcare in Colorado: we get to keep all of our insurance brokers next year, said Colorado Insurance Commissioner Marguerite Salazar. No Colorado counties will be without an insurance provider, according to the Summit Daily News.

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Get More Smarter on Friday (June 30)

Happy 150th birthday, hosers. It’s time to Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► A group of protestors with disabilities who were staging a sit-in at the Denver office of Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) chanted on Thursday that they “would rather go to jail than die without Medicaid.” The response from Gardner’s office: Why not both?

As Denver7 reports:

A group of advocates, many of whom who are disabled, were removed and arrested by Denver police after more 48 hours of protest at U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner’s office. The advocates took up residency to demand the Republican senator from Colorado vote against the Senate health care bill…

…a spokesman for the Denver Police Department said the department acted on a signed complaint from a representative from Gardner’s office. A total of ten protesters were arrested and now face a primary charge of trespassing.

The protest at Gardner’s office has become a national story. Hundreds of thousands of people have viewed the Facebook Live video from the arrests:

 

► If you’ve checked your email at all in the past 36 hours, you are probably aware that tonight is a big fundraising deadline. Candidates for state and federal offices have until 11:59 pm to collect donations that will be included on their Q2 finance report. Some candidates may release fundraising numbers for Q2 in the coming days, but full reports will not be available to the public until mid-July.

 

► If you thought that Republicans couldn’t muck up healthcare policy any worse than they have already, we have some bad news for you. As the Washington Post reports:

As health-care legislation continues to stall, President Trump pitched a new idea in a tweet Friday morning, suggesting that the Senate could repeal the Affordable Care Act now and deal with replacing it later.

“If Republican Senators are unable to pass what they are working on now, they should immediately REPEAL, and then REPLACE at a later date!” the president tweeted from his personal account.

Doing so could leave in the lurch more than 20 million Americans who now have private health plans or Medicaid coverage under the ACA and would lose that insurance with no guarantee of any alternative. And the tweet seems to contradict Trump’s earlier promises that he would provide “insurance for everybody” and that he would repeal and replace Obamacare as soon as he took office.

If at first (and second, and third, etc.) you don’t succeed…bring out the dynamite.

 

► Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams rolled over quickly after a request to release massive amounts of voter data from President Trump’s so-called “Election Integrity Commission.” As Denver7 reports:

The vice chair of President Donald Trump’s controversial Election Integrity Commission wants the full name, address, date of birth, affiliated political party, last four Social Security number digits and voting history since 2006 of every voter not only in Colorado, but in the entire U.S., and wants that information to be made available to the public…

…the ACLU of Colorado balked at Williams’ adherence to the request, saying it was part of a voter suppression effort by the government.

“President Trump’s baseless claim that millions of illegal voters participated in the 2016 election has been summarily debunked. Yet the federal government is pushing forward on a massive voter suppression effort based on myths and outright lies about voter fraud,” said ACLU of Colorado Public Policy Director Denise Maes. “Colorado’s Secretary of State should not willingly participate in a politically-motivated federal campaign to intimidate voters and suppress the vote.”

The commission Kobach is the vice chair of was created earlier this year after Trump made his false claim that several million people voted illegally in last year’s election.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Get More Smarter on Thursday (June 29)

Which country will Sen. Cory Gardner visit next week so that he doesn’t have to show his face in Colorado? It’s time to Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► If you’re looking for other reasons for why the GOP healthcare bill is in so much trouble, you won’t be lacking for ideas. Greg Sargent of the Washington Post singles out an interesting moment on Capitol Hill when Republican Senators first learned of the devastating CBO score on their proposed legislation…and were curiously surprised that the news was so bleak:

If GOP Senators expected the Senate bill to achieve “greater distance” from the House bill, then they were either not reckoning with the fundamental underlying realities of what GOP health reform is trying to accomplish, or they were hoping for some magical formula to materialize that would obscure those realities from view. Here is the basic math: If you are going to cut Obamacare’s taxes on rich people by hundreds of billions of dollars, you are going to have to roll back an enormous chunk of the law’s massive coverage expansion…

…Yet the Post report indicates that Republican Senators were surprised to learn that the CBO concluded that their bill would indeed carry out this trade-off. And they responded by dividing into two camps — one that would attack the purveyor of dispassionate, empirical analysis that had confirmed this to be the case; and one that thought this was futile, because the argument could not be won [Pols emphasis], once voters back home learned how many people would lose coverage under their bill. But why did they expect any other outcome in the first place?

Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) is firmly entrenched in the first camp listed above; Gardner is desperately trying to brush off the CBO score as unimportant.

 

► A separate story in the Washington Post offers a simpler explanation for the GOP’s healthcare woes:

White House officials and Trump loyalists saw a president diving in to patch up strife and save legislation that had been curbed in the Senate. Some seasoned senators, however, saw a president unable to grasp policy details or the obstacles ahead, and talked with each other after the gathering about what they saw as a bizarre scene. That Republican disconnect has been a constant ever since the Senate health bill was unveiled…

…Instead of moving happily toward passage of the party’s rallying cry, Republicans are frozen and unsure of the political cost of passing the Senate bill — especially with swing voters who in many states have come to rely on aspects of Obamacare and its expansion of Medicaid.

As Politico reports, Senate Republican leaders are still trying to salvage their healthcare bill by offering billions of dollars in sweeteners to address the opioid crisis. Critics of such proposals include Ohio Republican Gov. John Kasich, who has said that a few billion dollars for short-term opioid treatment is a “drop in the bucket” compared the the massive financial losses that would be inflicted by decimating Medicaid budgets.

Here in Colorado, Republicans are having plenty of trouble trying to figure out how to explain why the GOP healthcare legislation is not terrible. Congressman Scott Tipton (R-Cortez) either doesn’t understand the healthcare bills — or he is flat-out lying to his constituents — when he says that nobody who qualifies for Medicaid will lose that coverage. Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) keeps peddling nonsense talking points about rising costs under Obamacare — while failing to mention the fact that insurance rates would rise significantly more under the Republican healthcare proposals.

 

► As the New York Times explains, we finally have a bit more clarification on how President Trump’s Muslim travel ban will be implemented:

Stepsiblings and half-siblings are allowed, but not nieces or nephews. Sons- and daughters-in-law are in, but brothers- and sisters-in-law are not. Parents, including in-laws, are considered “close family,” but grandparents are not.

The State Department issued new guidelines Wednesday night to American embassies and consulates on applying a limited travel ban against foreign visitors from six predominantly Muslim countries. Enforcement of the guidelines will begin at 8 p.m. Eastern on Thursday.

 

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Get More Smarter on Wednesday (June 28)

Few things have become as strange as the daily White House press briefing.  It’s time to Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Republicans are scrambling to figure out their next steps after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell abruptly announced on Tuesday that the Senate healthcare bill (“The Better Care Reconciliation Act”) would not be rushed to a vote before Congress takes its July 4th holiday recess at the end of the week.

As the Washington Post explains, Republicans are having trouble finding a reason to push forward with a terrible healthcare bill:

Amid a revolt against the Senate health-care bill, supporters have seized upon something of a last-ditch argument: Whatever you think of this bill, they say, you owe it to your voters. Republicans have been promising for years to repeal and replace Obamacare, the argument goes, and not passing this bill will mean they will have broken their promise.

There is one big problem with that strategy: The GOP base doesn’t seem to see it that way.

Not only aren’t Republican voters particularly keen on this bill, but polls suggest they wouldn’t even blame their Republican members of Congress for failing to close the deal.

A new poll (Marist/NPR) shows that 55% of Americans disapprove of the Senate healthcare plan, with only 17% in favor of the bill. The polling trend lines have shown consistent downward movement.

As Politico reports, the Senate healthcare bill is not dead…yet…while the editorial board of the New York Times says the GOP’s “healthcare hoax” has been exposed.

 

► Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper has been in Washington D.C. alongside a bipartisan group of Governors in opposition to the Senate healthcare bill. Hickenlooper and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, held a news conference on Tuesday that was highly critical of GOP healthcare efforts that would include devastating cuts to Medicaid. Hickenlooper specifically called out Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) in his remarks.

Senator Michael Bennet (D-Denver) is pushing back against Republican claims that Democrats are refusing to work with the GOP on healthcare legislation. Bennet took to the Senate floor on Tuesday to hammer this point home.

 

► A group of protestors with disabilities have been camping out at the Denver office of Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) since late Tuesday in an effort to persuade Gardner to oppose the Republican Senate healthcare bill. Gardner has been bullish on the Senate bill despite Monday’s awful score from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), which estimated the legislation would cut health coverage for at least 22 million Americans.

 

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Get More Smarter on Monday (June 26)

If you’re looking to hire some interns for the summer, please don’t do this. It’s time to Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Today is another big day in the healthcare policy debate. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is expected to announce the results of its examination of the Republican Senate healthcare bill, also known as “The Better Care Reconciliation Act.” The Washington Post offers a good primer on what to look for in the CBO announcement.

The CBO score is expected to show, once again, that Republicans are dealing with a math problem — and not a messaging problem — when it comes to healthcare discussions. The looming report is one of many reasons why many Senate Republicans think the healthcare bill won’t be able to advance much further before next week’s July 4th recess.

 

► Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) spent the weekend at a conservative retreat in Colorado Springs hosted by the infamous Koch Brothers. The big message out of the weekend discussions at the Broadmoor Resort and Hotel centered around concerns from major right-wing donors that the Senate healthcare legislation doesn’t kill enough Americans isn’t more aggressive about eradicating Medicaid. Predictably, Gardner did not find time to talk to a reporter from the Denver Post about the Senate healthcare bill.

 

President Trump’s Muslim travel ban earned its first non-loss from the Judicial Branch. As the New York Times explains:

The Supreme Court announced on Monday that it would decide whether President Trump’s revised travel ban was lawful, setting the stage for a major decision on the scope of presidential power.

Mr. Trump’s revised executive order, issued in March, limited travel from six mostly Muslim countries for 90 days and suspended the nation’s refugee program for 120 days. The time was needed, the order said, to address gaps in the government’s screening and vetting procedures.

Two federal appeals courts have blocked critical parts of the order.

The administration had asked that the lower court ruling be stayed while the case moved forward. The court granted part of that request in its unsigned opinion.

This is indeed as confusing as it soundsPresident Trump, meanwhile, is declaring victory.

 

► Elsewhere in Supreme Court news, the case of a Colorado baker who refused to make a cake for a gay wedding will finally be heard this fall. From the Denver Post:

The U.S. Supreme Court said Monday that it would review the case of a Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple because of his beliefs — a legal fight with high stakes for both religious activists and civil-rights advocates.

For months, the high court has vacillated on whether it would hear the appeal of Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, whose refusal of service to Charlie Craig and David Mullins was rejected by the Colorado Court of Appeals and the state’s Civil Rights Commission.

There’s been one significant change to the Supreme Court, however, since the case first landed on its steps — the addition of Justice Neil Gorsuch, a native Coloradan who became its ninth member this spring after his nomination by President Donald Trump.

Gorsuch!

 

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Get More Smarter on Tuesday (June 20)

We know that there are probably a number of days this year that have already seemed like they would never end; today really is the longest day of the year. It’s time to Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

It’s deja vu all over again.

Senate Republicans don’t yet have an actual healthcare bill, let alone a score from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), and a majority of GOP Senators reportedly still have no idea what might be included in any potential legislation…but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is moving ahead with plans for a potential floor vote by the end of next week. The Washington Post elaborates on the details:

…the secrecy adopted by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is explicitly designed to shield the Senate GOP health-care bill from as much debate and public scrutiny as possible. The text of the bill will be available for all of one week before it is likely to be voted upon, after having been drafted in such secrecy that even Republican senators complained that they were being kept in the dark. There have not been, and apparently will not be, any hearings before the vote.

What’s more, lawmakers and the public may have only two or three days to absorb the details and significance of the CBO’s conclusions. Given that this will be the most rich and detailed empirical analysis available of the bill’s likely impact on tens of millions of people and one-sixth of the U.S. economy, you’d think this document would be deserving of extensive consideration in all its complexity.

But this rolling scandal doesn’t end there. This compressed schedule is not only designed to limit debate on the bill. As the Journal reports, the vote is being rushed for the express purpose of getting it done before the July 4 recess, because the failure to do so “could open Republican lawmakers up to pressure from constituents,” some of whom might be “concerned about losing their health coverage.” Thus, the schedule is also explicitly designed to shield lawmakers from public exposure and questioning about the immense human toll the measure they are considering could have — before they vote on it.

A new CBS News poll finds that the public broadly wants a more open process. Americans say, 73 percent to 25 percent, that Senate Republicans should discuss their plans publicly rather than privately. More than three-quarters of independents agree.

Vox.com has more analysis on how the Senate can potentially succeed with their secret plan…as well as several scenarios under which it will fail miserably.

The satirical news site The Onion also hits the nail on the head:

Headline from “The Onion” today.

 

► Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) is among the original 13 Republicans appointed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to craft a Senate version of Trumpcare, but Gardner clearly doesn’t want to talk about any of this. The big question for Gardner relates to whether he will ultimately support legislation that could gut Medicaid coverage for hundreds of thousands of Coloradans. You can call potential Medicaid cuts whatever you want — a “glide path to stability” is a favorite explanation of Gardner’s — but large-scale Medicaid cuts are not going to go over well with the 1.4 million Coloradans who rely on it for healthcare.

And as we said yesterday in this space, it’s also a fair question to ask whether or not Gardner even understands whatever secret legislation the Senate is crafting.

Elsewhere, Congresswoman Diana DeGette (D-Denver) outlined many of the problems with the proposed GOP healthcare bill in a press conference on Monday. Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper is also becoming increasingly outspoken about Republican plans for Trumpcare; Hick says the process taking place is “kind of crazy.”

 

► It is fitting that one of the longest special elections in recent memory will be decided on the longest day of the year. The New York Times has an extensive preview of Election Day in Georgia’s sixth congressional district.

 

 

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Colorado Grassroots Groups Issue Colorado Values Report Cards

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

A coalition of Colorado grassroots groups released their legislative scorecards for the 2017 General Assembly session today. The scorecards include votes to support and protect clean air and water, LGBTQ equality, immigrant rights, quality public education, working families, and access to reproductive health care.

“The organizations releasing scorecards today work on behalf of an overwhelming majority of Coloradans who want to see their leaders fight for a fairer, more just, and vibrant Colorado,” said Ian Silverii, Executive Director of ProgressNow Colorado. “Coloradans can use these scorecards to evaluate whether lawmakers voted in support of the issues they care most about, or put the far-right fringe and wealthy special interests first.”

“There were consistent themes throughout all of the scorecards,” continued Silverii. “While there were important compromises on critical issues this session, the Republican-controlled state Senate killed many other important bills that would have greatly helped Colorado’s economy, environment, and public health. Despite the progress made this year, several elected officials received failing grades on all of the scorecards–including Senators Tim Neville and Kevin Lundberg, and Representatives Justin Everett, Tim Leonard, Kim Ransom, and Stephen Humphrey.”

For a compilation of each group’s score for every member of the Colorado General Assembly, visit coloradovalues.org. Links to groups’ scorecards can be found at: 

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